Photography: Action Images
The Special One became The Perfect One as Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was honoured at a star-studded Football Writers’ Association gala tribute evening at the Savoy in London.
Mourinho, who has won a string of domestic and European trophies with FC Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, had just led the Blues to a 3-1 victory over Manchester United to keep them two points behind Barclays Premier League leaders Arsenal.
Frank Lampard paid a personal tribute to Mourinho, with England manager Roy Hodgson among the many guests from the football world present at the annual FWA event.
The Chelsea midfielder said: “There has never been any special over-confidence or arrogance from him. He made us all feel like we could be champions. For me, the main thing about the manager is on the pitch and also the mental stuff around that. He found the perfect way to deal with every individual in his squad, and still does today.
“The individual relationships he builds is something special. He is the one who has all the pluses, I cannot find a fault. He drags every individual up a level, anything that is needed he is the one that takes that one and that is why he one of the most special managers around.”
Mourinho was presented with his award by FWA chairman Andy Dunn, columnist for the Sunday Mirror. Louis van Gaal, the former Barcelona coach now in charge of Holland, also paid tribute to the Portuguese who was clearly humbled to be chosen as the latest recipient for the annual dinner.
Mourinho spoke about his relationship with the press. He said: “It makes me ask again the Football Writers’ Association if I deserve it. I have had some achievements in the English game, but others have, too. I have a good relation with the media and gave them some good headlines in the time we have been together, but I don’t know if I did enough to deserve this award.”
He then paid an emotional tribute to those who have helped him reach the pinnacle of the game. The 50-year-old, who was accompanied by his wife and children – son Jose a promising goalkeeper – said: “Without love and happiness, I could not do my job. My assistant [coaches] are like my brothers, Frank [Lampard] represents my players, without whom I have no career, and Mr [Louis] van Gaal, Mr [Bobby] Robson, my bosses.”
Mourinho believes a settled family life in England has helped him refocus for the challenges ahead. He continued: “The best thing football gave me was to make a decision about my future. Some managers go where they have to go, where the club comes, and sometimes it is not the best move, not what they want to do, but they go.
“I sat down with my wife and family, and said ‘where is the best place for us? Where can we be happier as a family? To be happy as a manager and enjoy more the family and life socially?’ We decided England, after that, for the situation to be perfect it would be Chelsea and I was lucky because the door was open for me.”
Mourinho hopes to continue his career at Chelsea for “many, many” years, but indicated he had no intentions of ever leaving the Premier League. He added: “The principles you have in relation to football and life are absolutely amazing. I love this Chelsea Football Club, which has been the only club to have ever sacked me, we as a family belong to you [in] England. I belong to Chelsea, Chelsea belongs to me, and hopefully we will stay for many, many years.”
He joked: “It is not a threat, but if you sack me, I will stay in England and go to another club, a possible rival.”
FWA chairman Andy Dunn hailed Mourinho’s “remarkable” managerial record.
“There will be some more honours to add because success has followed Jose on every step of his managerial career,” he said.
“That journey has brought him back to the Barclays Premier League and his return has made the competition fiercer, the debates livelier and the press conferences sparkier.
“No-one can deny Jose adds another layer of interest to the world’s most-watched domestic league.
“So thanks to Jose Mourinho, not just for accepting this honour from the FWA, but for continuing to foster a relationship with our members that we believe – whether we are praising or taking you to task – is special.”
Sir Alex Ferguson took the time to write a personal tribute to his old sparing partner for the FWA programme.
“My admiration for him is principally born our of respect for what he has achieved and the manner in which he has achieved it, and I know the regard for each other is mutual,” Ferguson said.
“When Chelsea won the title for the first time in 50 years in his first season, myself and the Manchester United players were proud to form a guard of honour for his team when they came to Old Trafford as champions, and it was nice when he did the same for my United side when we went to Stamford Bridge after finishing on top in 2007.
“But aside from his phenomenal success in leading teams to championship honours in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain, and winning the Champions League with two clubs, he is also magnificent company… witty, amusing, thoughtful, extremely knowledgeable and a wonderful conversationalist. What’s more like myself he appreciates a glass of decent red!
“Unfortunately I will miss sharing the celebration. I will also miss competing against him and trying to outwit him.
“That is now the formidable challenge others will have to face.”
Louis van Gaal worked with Mourinho at Barcelona alongside Sir Bobby Robson.
The Savoy prepares to welcome the guest of honour.
Jose Mourinho receives the 2014 FWA Tribute Award.